Stayin' alive

by Jeff Gelski
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Gloria Gaynor’s 1979 hit "I Will Survive" might work as a theme song for the trend of adding probiotics to processed foods and beverages. Probiotics, also known as friendly or good bacteria, may provide digestive benefits when added to finished products. That is, provided they survive long enough to do so.

Probiotic strains must retain stability during the product’s shelf life, according to "Probiotics: Their Potential to Impact Human Health," an issue paper released in October by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST), Des Moines, Iowa. Probiotic strains must show resistance to stomach acid and pancreatic secretions such as bile and digestive enzymes. They must survive in high numbers through the small intestine if they are to confer the health benefit.

Ingredient suppliers promote how their specific probiotic strains can withstand such conditions. Some companies also turn to microencapsulation to protect probiotic strains.

Besides the need for probiotics to survive, the CAST paper examined issues such as food safety, health claims and the potential for probiotics to enter different food and beverage categories. A U.S. Department of Agriculture grant supported the paper.

"Yogurt is perhaps the most common probiotic-carrying food, but the market has expanded beyond yogurt," the CAST paper said. "Cheese, fermented and unfermented milks, juices, smoothies, cereal, nutrition bars and infant/toddler formula all are food vehicles for probiotic delivery."

U.S. sales of probiotic refrigerated milk rose to $54.6 million for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 3, 2007, which compared with $38.3 million in the previous 52-week period, according to the Nielsen Co. U.S. sales of probiotic strained baby food rose more than 14% to $52.8 million.

The search for strains

Researchers continue to seek probiotic strains that will survive in various food and beverage categories.

P.L. Thomas, Morristown, N.J., recently announced it will represent GanedenBC30 (Bacillus coagulans GBI-30 6086) to the food and beverage industries. Ganeden Biotech, Inc., Mayfield Heights, Ohio, offers the probiotic ingredient. GanedenBC30 may be baked, boiled, frozen and squeezed into virtually any food and beverage application, according to P.L. Thomas. The probiotic ingredient maintains viable cells after surviving manufacturing processes such as high pressure, high heat and cold conditions.

In one test, GanedenBC30 was placed in a simulated gastric environment with a pH of 2.0 for 120 minutes, and 78% of the cells survived, said Mike Bush, vice-president of business development for Ganeden Biotech. Ganaden Biotech produced a muffin with probiotics that was baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes.

"Until we were introduced to Ganeden BC, we did not believe that a probiotic could be a viable ingredient in mainstream, high volume foods and beverages because every strain we looked at was so fragile," said Paul Flowerman, president of P.L. Thomas.

GanedenBC30’s heartiness comes from its spores, Mr. Bush said.

"That spore continues to survive even if the vegetative portion of the cell is killed," he said. "That spore then goes on to produce new cells which then divide and colonize the host. The best analogy to use is that of a seed surviving to grow and ultimately produce fruit or vegetables."

Ganeden Biotech has self-affirmed GanedenBC30 as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) and plans to seek confirmation from the Food and Drug Administration.

Another use for microencapsulation

While spores keep GanedenBC30 alive, microencapsulation might work with other probiotic strains. Chr. Hansen, Horsholm, Denmark, increased its presence in probiotics last year by acquiring Medipharm AB, a subsidiary of Arla Foods AB. Medipharm specializes in probiotic bacterial solutions, including Lactobacillus F-19.

Microencapsulation technology allows Lactobacillus F-19 to be added to a wider variety of food products, according to Medipharm. Dairy products, cereals, bars, chocolate, infant formula and juice are potential applications.

A microencapsulation technology was used when Barry Callebaut, Zurich, Switzerland, introduced chocolate enriched with probiotics last year. Lal’food, the nutritional food ingredients division of Lallemand in Europe, developed the technology.

"The patented Probiocap technology involves applying a protective shield around the probiotic bacteria, ensuring their survival in the digestive tract and thus optimal activity in the gut, their site of action," said Bruno Delattre, business director at Lal’food. "Probiocap also provides an answer to several known stability issues of probiotics in non-dairy applications."

Danisco stands by the effectiveness of its probiotic strains and does not use microencapsulation.

"Danisco has evaluated practically every commercially available encapsulation technology as well as those in various stages of development," said Dr. Gregory Leyer, Ph.D., probiotic technical director for Danisco’s cultures division. "Encapsulation benefits are specific and need to be designed to the end application, and in our experience encapsulation has not been shown to provide a significant stability advantage over un-encapsulated material.

"One needs to consider the stability of the un-encapsulated core material, and Danisco has developed patented stabilization technologies making the stability of its core material unsurpassed."

Microencapsulation of probiotics is an emerging field, said Dr. Todd Klaenhammer, director of the Southeast Dairy Foods Research Center in Raleigh, N.C. It may work for some probiotic strains. Other probiotic strains are naturally resistant to bile and digestive enzymes. Microencapsulation may not improve their survival capabilities.

About 10 to 15 probiotic cultures on the market have good clinical data that support their ability to survive and confer health benefits, Mr. Klaenhammer said. Finding enough clinical data may take years, he added.

Danisco’s Howaru and Florafit range of probiotic ingredients were selected because of their resistance to stomach acid and digestive enzymes, Dr. Leyer said. Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM and Bifidobacterium lactis HN019 are two examples of strains that show resistance.

Danisco has offered its probiotic strains in Europe for years and now promotes them in North America. The company focused on probiotic research in its second Health & Nutrition Symposium Dec. 5 in Madison, Wis. The event provided a forum for nearly 150 people, including food and dietary supplement manufacturers, nutritionists and academia.

Promoting structure-function claims

Manufacturers adding probiotic strains to their products probably will want to promote them with some sort of claim. Documented strains are restricted to structure-function claims consistent with data supplied by the manufacturer, Dr. Leyer said. "Supports a healthy immune system" and "supports a healthy digestive system" are two examples.

The CAST paper recommended third-party verification of label claims. In some cases the only assessment of probiotic content is what the company says about its own product, said Dr. Mary Ellen Sanders, lead author of the report and executive director of the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics.

"Several studies document examples of foods and supplements that either do not contain the amount of probiotic stipulated on the label or do not use the correct scientific nomenclature to name the microbes present," the paper said.

Probiotics are appearing in baked foods, confectionery and beverages, but clinical studies must be done in each specific application before a structure function claim may be made, said Terri Rexroat, global product manager of lactic cultures for Cargill Texturizing Solutions, Wayzata, Minn.

"Due to the extended time frames required for these studies, the ability to make claims for these other applications is lagging behind dairy," she said.

Studies on probiotics apparently have become more prevalent. According to the CAST paper, more than four times the number of human clinical trials on probiotics were published during the period from 2001 to 2005 than from 1996 to 2000.

"The authors conclude that controlled human studies have revealed a diverse range of health benefits from consumption of probiotics, due largely to their impact on immune function or on microbes colonizing the body," the CAST paper said. "Additional, well-designed and properly controlled human and mechanistic studies with probiotics will advance the essential understanding of active principles, mechanisms of action and degree of effects that can be realized by specific consumer groups."

A definition

The Food and Drug Administration provides no definition for probiotics. The World Health Organization classifies them as "live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host."


DES MOINES, IOWA — The Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) gives the following considerations for probiotic product development:

1. Probiotics should be described adequately and identified to the strain level.

2. Each probiotic strain should be able to be identified and enumerated from the product.

3. Probiotic strains and products should be supported by a dossier substantiating efficacy.

4. Product formulation should be evidence-based.

5. Viability of all probiotic strains in the product should be maintained above the target minimum level through the end of shelf life.

6. Product labeling should be done in a truthful and not misleading fashion.

7. Probiotic strain(s) must be safe for their intended use.

Getting specific

Danisco offers different formulations for specific health benefits in its probiotic ingredient line:

• Howaru Bifido (Bifidobacterium lactis HN019) for immune-modulating properties,

• Howaru Dophilus (Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM) for gut health,

• Howaru Rhamnosus (Lactobacillus rhamnosus HN001) for immune-modulating properties,

• Howaru Restore (five-strain blend of Bifido and Lactobacilli) to restore and maintain healthy gut flora during antibiotic therapy, and

• Howaru Protect (a proprietary two-strain blend) to reduce cold-associated symptoms of fever, cough and runny nose.


This article can also be found in the digital edition of Food Business News, January 22, 2008, starting on Page 47. Click here to search that archive.

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